III. Leviticus: In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

No one had to announce it was deadly
more than a moccasin bite.

The dumbest guy here (picked from stiff competition)
knew he’d be extinguished soon, polluted.

The oil barons too smart to live here would
as soon snuff us out as look at us—

our spongy tumors, the scarlet growth
on the bird dog’s belly, the fistula

in the breast, the bowels, the hanging balls,
basal cell carcinoma burned off with a cigarette.

Three gas stations in this town now chemo centers so
you needn’t drive to Houston

to sit with pollution needled into your arm,
while far-off bosses who knew all along

hit pocked balls off small hickory tees
towards named greens that go forever on.

“III. Leviticus: In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” from Tropic of Squalor by Mary Karr. Copyright © 2018 by Mary Karr. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.